House of Commons Hansard #149 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was gasoline.


Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I get started on my remarks, I would like to say hello to my mother, 87 years old, who has been ailing of late and is doing much better. They say behind that every successful man there is a surprised mother-in-law, but behind my mother there are 10 children, 60 grandchildren and 70 great-grandchildren, and we are all glad that she is still with us.

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-299. This bill was introduced by the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc. It was supported at second reading and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

In February, the committee heard from the sponsor. During clause by clause consideration, the committee also heard from witnesses from the Department of Justice. Those discussions were very fruitful.

The objective of Bill C-299 is oriented toward a particular problem, specifically the practice which is commonly known as pretexting. Pretexting is the act of getting people to reveal personal information by various kinds of deception.

In this case, the sponsor of the bill was particularly interested in the obtaining of information about people by deception of other parties. The bill was focused on deception generally and also specifically on deception that takes the form of impersonating another person.

For example, there are many reported instances of people calling a telephone company and pretending to be a subscriber. The caller then asks for the subscriber's phone records. The telephone company, believing the caller to be an actual subscriber, releases the records. The caller then obtains the records, which reveal a significant amount of information about the subscriber.

This kind of practice can be a flagrant violation of privacy. It is also a tool used by identity thieves to obtain identity information that can be used to impersonate the subscriber in a range of different contexts.

In its original form, the bill amended the Criminal Code, the Competition Act and the Canada Evidence Act. It created new offences and other measures designed to address this form of pretexting conduct.

The justice committee of the House heard that there were some concerns with the bill as it was originally drafted. One set of concerns related to the offences that were proposed for enactment in the Criminal Code. For instance, as originally drafted, Bill C-299 would have created offences that criminalize the very act of obtaining personal information by deception of some kind, without anything more.

I mentioned previously that this kind of act can be a privacy intrusion or it can be the first step to an identity theft enterprise, but there are also legitimate circumstances in which deception is used.

For instance, deception is a legitimate investigative technique used by police. Undercover police are constantly deceiving the targets of their investigation as to their true identity, all with a view to obtaining evidence against those targets. Outside of the undercover context, the police can also use deception when they interview suspects.

There are many other legitimate circumstances in which people use deception to obtain information. Investigative journalists likely employ such techniques when they are tracking down a story. Although it may be distasteful to think about, it is probably also the case that parents, friends and spouses sometimes tell each other lies in order to uncover information.

Simply put, lying is not sufficient to amount to a crime. All of this is to say that the original wording of the offences proposed in Bill C-299 was too broad. It captured too many circumstances by also criminalizing deception that is undertaken for legitimate or non-harmful purposes.

I believe the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc was in agreement with this assessment. As a result, the committee, with the sponsor's approval, amended those proposed criminal offences by adding an additional component.

Simply put, the additional requirement is an intent to use the information obtained to impersonate the person or to defraud someone. In the criminal law context, people obtain other people's information in order to use it to impersonate them. This is what is commonly referred to as identity theft.

Using another person's information like a key, the identity thief can then access their financial or bank accounts, sell their property, make purchases on their credit card, and so on.

While the acts of impersonating and defrauding someone are already criminal offences, the act of obtaining the necessary identifying information is not a crime, even where that is done for the sole purpose of using the information to commit an offence.

Following this logic, the committee adopted the offences that were proposed in Bill C-299 by adding a criminal intention to use the information to impersonate or to defraud someone. The result is an offence that criminalizes the deception as a tool of identity theft. At the same time, the offence would not criminalize lying in other contexts where there is no intention to later use the information to commit another crime. This makes sense.

By criminalizing for the first time one technique that is frequently used by identity thieves, Bill C-299, as amended by the committee, is a significant step forward for our criminal law and should be applauded.

However, the committee acknowledged that the offences, even as they were amended, did not completely address the problem of identity theft.

There are other tactics that identity thieves use to collect valuable information, such as rifling through garbage, hacking into computer databases, and watching over a person's shoulder as they use their cards. These methods do not rely on deception. As a result, Bill C-299 does not make these acts criminal. The committee recognized that Bill C-299 does not comprehensively address the issue of identity theft but viewed it as a good first step, and I would certainly agree.

In this regard, I would like to take the opportunity to remind members that the Department of Justice has been working on proposals to amend the Criminal Code to deal with the full range of identity theft situations. I understand that this work is ongoing. I hope that we will see more comprehensive government legislation in this area in the future.

The committee made a number of other changes to the proposed new Criminal Code offences. For instance, it replaced the definition of personal information that was previously provided. The original definition was the same as the definition from the Personal Identification and Protection of Electronic Documents Act, known as PIPEDA. That definition is “information about an identifiable individual”. This definition is suitable for a statute such as PIPEDA, which is designed to protect the privacy of personal information.

However, privacy is not the primary focus of an identity theft law. Identity theft is about protecting a person's identity from being falsely used, not about protecting privacy for its own sake, although privacy protection is certainly enhanced by identity theft laws. A definition which includes any information about a person is too broad for an identity theft offence because a lot of information that is about people is not useful for impersonating them. For instance, the initial definition would have included information like shopping preferences, a person's religion or height, and an infinite amount of other information. None of these types of information are relevant to identity theft.

The type of information that is pertinent to an identity theft law is information that is capable of identifying a person. This is a much narrower case of information than information that is about a person. For this reason, and again with the consent of the sponsor, the committee replaced the definition originally in the bill with a definition more suitable to the context.

Another change the committee made to the proposed Criminal Code offences was to expand the scope of the offences so they would cover not just the use of deception to get information from third parties, such as a telephone company, but so it captured the use of deception to get information from any person. This change means the use of deception to get a person to reveal identifying information about themselves would also be an offence. This makes good sense. We know that identity thieves do in fact get information directly from the people they intend to impersonate.

Phishing attacks are a good example. A phishing attack is an unsolicited email which falsely appears to be from a legitimate banking or other type of institution. It asks the recipient to provide valuable identifying or financial information, which the identity thieves then use. Phishing scams do not deceive third parties into revealing information; they deceive the victims directly. Bill C-299 has been reported back to the House in a form that would now capture this behaviour.

There were other elements of the original bill. There was a proposal to amend the Canada Evidence Act and proposals to amend the Competition Act.

With the agreement of the hon. member who introduced the legislation, the proposal that would have amended the Canada Evidence Act was deleted from the bill. Those proposals that pertained to the Competition Act were also deleted. It was suggested that the issues raised by those proposals would be raised with the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics for consideration as part of its legislative review of the PIPEDA legislation.

I thank the members of the committee for their detailed consideration of the bill and for their amendments to it, which I believe improve the legislation.

I again commend the hon. member who tabled Bill C-299, which represents an important first step in the battle against identity theft.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.


Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour and privilege to announce that the Liberal caucus, the official opposition, intends to support Bill C-299. We believe that this bill addresses a serious issue and that the committee's amendments have resolved the problems with the original version of the bill.

We were very pleased that the member for Edmonton—Leduc accepted the amendments proposed in committee, specifically to change the definition of personal information, as was pointed out by my colleague from Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe in the debate at second reading. The definition that we originally found in Bill C-299, which was taken from the PIPEDA, was not appropriate for the issue of identity theft and pretexting.

We also pointed out that we were a little dismayed that the government was not addressing the issue of identity theft in its entirety. The department has been studying and consulting on the issue for over three years. At least two reports have come out on the issue with regard to the kinds of amendments that need to be brought forward in the Criminal Code and other legislation in order to address the issue in its entirety.

We would have preferred to see that kind of omnibus bill and overall reform rather than piecemeal, but I have to commend the member for Edmonton—Leduc for deciding not to wait on his government, which seems to be dragging its feet, and to move forward at least on this issue.

Liberals are pleased with the amendments brought forward at committee and are prepared to support Bill C-299 as reported back from committee.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I, too, rise in support of Bill C-299. I will speak very briefly on the matter because I think it is a subject that all Canadians should be concerned with, and it is fitting that the House of Commons is seized of the issue today.

I am not sure that all Canadians realize the magnitude and the scope of this problem. Today in testimony at the access to information, privacy and ethics committee we heard that it is estimated there are roughly 30 million incidents of identity theft or breaches of personal information in the United States per year, which could lead to identity theft. In fact, there were 104 million incidents in the last three years.

Coupled with the initiative by my colleague from Edmonton, Bill C-299, our committee has undertaken a comprehensive study and analysis. We will be doing a full review and study of identity theft in all its forms.

One of the things that comes to mind, and people who are following this subject might be interested in this, is the justice committee has also been dealing with the issue. I believe my colleague, the justice critic for the NDP, was aware of this. Back in February, it submitted a report to the House of Commons, urging the Minister of Justice to amend the Criminal Code to include identity theft as a separate item under the Criminal Code, thus recognizing the severity of the problem in society.

We heard evidence from the Privacy Commissioner today. She tried to give some definition to a problem that is abstract in nature and poorly understood by so many. I do not think people realize the number of ways identity theft is being planned and implemented as we speak. There are people out there with great technical skills who are busily engaging themselves in identity theft now, not always resulting in injury to a Canadian but it should still be considered a crime in the context of the RCMP looking into it.

One of the assistants to the Privacy Commissioner currently is a former deputy commissioner of the RCMP specializing in identity theft. We take some comfort that we are well served with expertise, watching out for our best interests in this regard. However, they are wrestling with how we might better protect Canadians from this problem.

One of the more egregious examples that came forward in testimony today is the situation, which happens from time to time in our country and in the United States, where houses are sold right out from underneath people, without them realizing it. Unwittingly and unknowingly to them, someone has usurped their identity, gone through the motions and actually sold their homes. The titles have been transferred and they are sitting in homes that they thought were theirs, but they have been stolen from them. That is perhaps one of more glaring or shocking examples, but people should be taking that seriously.

We note the commissioner of privacy in the United Kingdom has just issued a report on this issue of identity theft and uses the word “shocking” at some of the revelations of the criminal activity going on in that country. One of the more shocking things they have uncovered and revealed to us, and that we have taken note of, is the fact there are moles willing to sell information to undercover police or undercover journalists, as was exposed in that country, in virtually every aspect of the financial sector. They are willing to sell personal information for the purposes of illegal activity and identity theft.

It can be through phishing attacks or fake bank e-mails, which is another one Canadians should be cautious of. It has been brought to our attention that people are getting phony e-mails, using the banner and the template of a local bank, asking them to please verify their bank account numbers and their pin numbers so the bank can double check to ensure everything is on the up and up. Those are fraudulent messages but they are so professionally executed that even people who are cautious of identity theft in their personal information are falling for this and are sending their most highly protected personal information to these individuals with sometimes tragic results.

There are robots, Bots, circulating throughout the IT sector, Trojans and worms that creep into the electronic systems. On a cautionary note, people must become aware of and be cautious of the Facebook and MySpace domains, especially young people, because there are people trolling through that database of information for the purposes of identity theft.

If there are 30 million people per year whose personal information is being compromised by people who would and could use this identity theft to inflict financial injury on us, just by sheer ratio and proportion, we could safely say that there are roughly three millions Canadians per year who are suffering this.

The reason I raise this and the reason I wanted to intervene today is that it is wrong that companies are not required to notify individuals if their personal information has been compromised. Companies have no obligation or duty to notify people in the case of a breach.

Even if I did not suffer any financial loss, if my personal information and my privacy were compromised, I would want to know because I may choose to change where I am doing business if its security network is so lax that once, twice or ten times my personal information has been compromised.

One of the recommendations of the committee which just did a statutory review of the PIPEDA legislation, the personal information protection legislation, was that there must be a duty and an obligation on the company to notify people, whether it is the credit card company or the bank that has lost the records or whatever, that their information has been compromised.

We are taking this very seriously. Bill C-299, or what is left of it, would only help us in one aspect of all that needs to be done. It does in fact call for the Criminal Code to be amended so that identification information obtained by fraud or false pretence would be a stand-alone offence.

It has always struck me as odd that it is a stand-alone offence to steal a cow but it is not a stand-alone offence to steal an automobile for instance, and it is not a stand-alone offence to engage in this criminal activity which is very much a sign of the times and one that was never contemplated when the Martin's Criminal Code was put together. However, it is a much more pervasive problem today than a lot of Canadians realize.

We are not trying to upset people or to cause a panic. We believe that, by and large, our financial institutions do provide adequate security but if there are creative and highly skilled technical people who are looking for every opportunity possible to penetrate whatever security walls might have been put up in order to gain access to our personal information for nefarious reasons, we must to take this seriously. If we do nothing else in this particular area, in this particular Parliament, we should be able to tell Canadians that we are seized with this issue and that we will do all we can to protect their financial and personal information.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all my colleagues who spoke to this bill. I appreciate all of their interventions right from second reading through to the justice committee and to this debate here. My hope, obviously, is that this bill will pass, and I do have reason to believe that it may pass third reading, which is quite an achievement for a private member's bill. I am certainly very proud of that.

In my five minutes I want to summarize what the bill is about. It is an attempt to address one part of the problem of identity theft. Identity theft is a problem that is growing in our country, especially with a lot of the new technology, computers, e-mails, and the information that people give out electronically, whether they save it or transmit it, and with the companies that keep it.

The fact is that this has caused, in part, a lot of ease in terms of transactions and doing business but, unfortunately, it has led to a lot of people, with motives that are certainly less than wholesome, to take this information and, in certain cases, use it against these people.

Unfortunately, the Criminal Code has not been up to speed in terms of dealing with stealing a person's identity. My initiative here is to address one part of it called pretexting. As members have pointed out, pretexting, which is essentially pretending to be someone that I am not, to obtain identification information and then using that for criminal purposes.

I do want to point out the process. As members pointed out, I did start with personal information as it was in the Privacy Act. However, members of the justice department convinced me that it was better to use identification information. It was better to say criminal intent in the bill so that someone was not just collecting this information so they would not be caught under this legislation.

I think this is actually an example of a case where the process of Parliament worked when going from second reading to the justice committee. The bill was amended and supported unanimously by the justice committee. It was then sent back to the House for report stage and third reading. In fact, members from all sides of the House have had their input into the bill and have improved the bill. I thank all members for that, especially the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice who was outstanding in terms of all the work he did. I thank members from all parties for their input.

Often in the House we criticize government officials and bureaucrats. I do want to say that in this case the two people from the justice department, William Bartlett and Joanne Klineberg, were exceptional in terms of helping to improve the bill in terms of changing the definition from personal information to identification information and in terms of explaining what the government was doing in terms of looking at identity theft in a broader way.

I think it is correct what members have said in the sense that this is one part of the issue of identity theft. The problem needs to be addressed in a very comprehensive way. I am very glad that the government is actually looking at that and seriously looking to bringing forward a comprehensive package very soon on that initiative.

I want to re-emphasize for people what the bill is about. It is about dealing with pretexting, pretending to be someone that we are not, obtaining that information and then using that information and selling it online.

I should compliment and credit the Privacy Commission, Jennifer Stoddart. I do want to tip my hat to Maclean's magazine because this bill started with me reading an article in Maclean's back in 2005 where the personal telephone records of our own Privacy Commissioner had been obtained by someone over the Internet. The magazine had obtained them from someone called the data broker, who is someone who collects this information and sells it. The genesis of this bill and the idea really started there and so I should credit Maclean's. I also want to credit the Privacy Commissioner for helping with the bill and commenting on it as well.

I hope the bill does receive the unanimous support of the House, goes to the Senate and becomes law. It would be a big step forward in terms of addressing identity theft.

I also want to encourage the government to proceed with its plans to address the comprehensive package that addresses identity theft in general, recognizing the seriousness of the problem and the fact that Canadians deserve to have their identities protected.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

I declare the motion carried unanimously.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Could I have the unanimous consent of the House to see the clock as being 6:30 p.m. so we can begin the adjournment debate?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:20 p.m.


Lloyd St. Amand Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, for some 15 months the government has done virtually nothing to recognize the crisis that the tobacco industry is in and nothing to alleviate the severe strain being placed on tobacco farmers and their communities.

The dramatic decline of the tobacco industry in southern Ontario has truly devastated communities, affecting the livelihoods of thousands of citizens of rural southern Ontario.

Tobacco farmers are understandably very concerned about the future of their business and the future of their communities. A number of contributing factors have created a veritable perfect storm for tobacco farmers.

In 2002 they were advised by tobacco companies to reinvest heavily in sophisticated new machinery, which is now of little use to them as production has dropped off very substantially. In total, tobacco farmers, and there are only hundreds of them, invested $65 million to keep their industry and their livelihoods afloat. As well, over the past several years both levels of government have introduced legislation and programs to effectively shut down the tobacco industry.

While governments have properly educated consumers about the perils of smoking, governments have continued to benefit from the sale of tobacco, bringing in approximately $9 billion each year in taxes levied on tobacco products. Additionally, with an increase in illegal and contraband cigarettes entering the Canadian market, tobacco producers are unable to financially compete any longer.

Before the government was elected, its members called on the government at that time to provide a suitable buyout package to farmers. In 2004, for instance, the member for Haldimand—Norfolk, now the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, criticized the then Liberal government's program as too cheap in providing $71 million to tobacco producers. Yet after 15 months of governing, not a single cent has been provided by the government to tobacco farmers.

The harsh reality is tobacco farmers are in a severe financial crisis and a comprehensive exit strategy has been promised to them for some several months. It is time for the federal government to act, not to talk. The so-called high level meetings have gone on and on and the discussions are becoming circular with no apparent end in sight. The federal government should and must commit immediately to a solid exit strategy for tobacco producers and must stop talking about yet another round of talks.

Precedents have been set in other tobacco producing countries. Exit strategies have been provided, for instance, to tobacco farmers in both Australia and the United States. It is time that Canadian tobacco farmers received similar fair treatment.

On March 8 of this year I received a letter from the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food stating, “The sector's difficulties remain an important concern to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada”. Is that concern, I ask? Nothing was provided in the budget for the hundreds of tobacco farmers who are in very desperate straits. On March 22, the minister stated in the House that he, “realized the very difficult situation for tobacco growers, especially in Ontario”.

When does the minister intend to demonstrate real leadership, real concern for the tobacco farmers and provide a buyout package for them?

6:25 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands


David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, as we all know, this problem did not just arise in the last 15 months. There were 13 years during which the Liberal government did not act on this issue. We are acting on it.

In particular, I would like to recognize my colleague from Elgin—Middlesex—London and the hard work he has done on this file and his persistence on it.

The hon. member of the opposition is asking the government to demonstrate a concern for Canada's tobacco sector. I can assure the House that the situation facing Ontario's flue-cured tobacco growers is of concern to the government.

The government understands that significant declines in demand have occurred for Ontario's flue-cured tobacco and that the province's 1,559 flue-cured quota holders anticipate further reductions in demand for this year's crop.

We understand the serious circumstances that tobacco growers are faced with. In fact we have provided a number of programs to assist tobacco growers in the past.

In 2005 the tobacco industry was assisted through the tobacco adjustment assistance program. Entry requirements were also altered to ensure that tobacco producers would be eligible for the Canadian agricultural skills service program which provides producers with access to skills development and learning opportunities.

In addition, the government continues to provide assistance to tobacco producers through business risk management tools, such as CAIS, the production insurance program, spring credit advance programs and the advance payments program.

Last year the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers' Marketing Board did bring forward a buyout proposal in which they were asking for $1 billion. This proposal was seen as being too expensive, as this level of support would better fit the entire agricultural sector. Recently the board has resubmitted a reduced proposal of $711 million.

The reduced level of funding sought by the board is also too high and it continues to be difficult to justify providing $711 million to 650 producers who are representing 1,559 flue-cured quota holders when many other producers in the agriculture industry are also facing very serious difficulties.

However, the minister understands the hardships facing the tobacco sector today. He will continue to work at identifying practical ways to help the tobacco sector. He will do so in collaboration with other federal departments, the central agencies and the Government of Ontario. In doing so, we need to and will consider all existing and proposed programming in the context of the entire agricultural sector.

6:25 p.m.


Lloyd St. Amand Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for his answer, with respect, all of which I have heard before, all of which the tobacco producers in my riding and in other ridings have heard before.

It is regrettable, and frankly it is shameful, that it took the government many months before responding to the proposal submitted last year, in 2006, by the tobacco board. It was in February of this year that the minister announced, not in this chamber, that the $1 billion buyout was, to use the minister's phrasing, “too expensive”.

The minister has not yet provided a definite response to tobacco growers as to what the government intends to do. What in concrete, practical, on the ground terms is the government going to do for those tobacco farmers who are teetering on bankruptcy? Unhappily, we have not heard it tonight either.

6:25 p.m.


David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, as I said, the uncertainty facing the tobacco sector's 650 tobacco producers who represent 1,559 flue-cured quota holders continues to pose a concern for the government. Practical solutions to the ongoing difficulties must be developed in collaboration with the province of Ontario.

6:25 p.m.


Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, today there was news of yet another Canadian who was beaten into a coma in Mexico. What other country is recording such physical atrocities against Canadians? Why will the minister not warn Canadians?

When the Mexican president passed judgment on two young ladies from Thunder Bay, if ever there was a diplomatic faux pas that occurred, that was it. Yet the Prime Minister and the foreign affairs minister did absolutely nothing to counter that. There has been a request for a formal diplomatic protest and still there has been nothing. What is to stop the Mexicans from producing fraudulent evidence given the passive role of Canadian due process?

The minister frequently states that he cannot interfere in an active investigation. Canadians are not asking for that, but that he look at the evidence that has already been prepared. The federal government refuses to assist. It even advised Dr. Everall and Ms. Kim that they should hire a Mexican lawyer to find out whether there are arrest warrants in their names.

It appears that the minister will have to be subpoenaed to answer the following questions. The parliamentary secretary can either answer them now or face the subpoena of interrogation. The questions are:

Should the government go to bat for Canadians with sincerity and full weight, especially if they are falsely accused in a foreign country?

Why have the Everall and Kim names not been cleared yet?

Why has the Prime Minister not spoken in their defence to counterbalance the Mexican president's accusations?

Why has the minister not verified their innocence?

Why has the minister not ensured their names are removed from any international watch lists or no-fly lists?

Why does the minister have to be subpoenaed to appear as a witness? Why does he not just appear and answer these reasonable questions?

These innocent women came to me for help. One would think the minister would do everything possible to help them. Canadians need the assurance that their government will protect the innocent. Why must these women continue to live in fear and uncertainty? Why will the minister not tell Canadians that a priority for him is their security and helping the innocent?

I ask again, why has the Prime Minister not announced in this very House that these young ladies are no longer prime suspects in Mexico and that they are truly innocent? How seriously can Canadians take this when that has not occurred yet?

Why has there been no follow up by the minister's office since December?

What questions were asked of the Mexican government? What pressure has been put on it and why is this case still unresolved?